Design & Sensibilities
An interview with Interior Decorator and Artist, Shana Weisberg, by Elizabeth Harris
From globetrotting consultant to Parisienne Interior Decorator and Artist, Shana Weisberg’s account, studio SENSIBILITÉ, is a visual ode to the sensibilities that influence and touch her life, designs, and art: America, Vietnam, and France. I talked with Shana on how studio SENSIBILITÉ went from an escape from the confines of a 30 square meter apartment during lockdown in Paris to a budging design business.
What inspired you to become an interior designer? And why did you decide to get your master's in interior decoration in French?
I have strong roots in the US, Vietnam, and France. My mother is Vietnamese, my father is American, my husband is French and his mother’s side of the family also has Vietnamese origins. It’s within and between these three distinct cultures that my inspirations reside. To articulate my creative expressions, I combine my cultural histories, innovations, and crafts through the lens of interior design. I’m constantly searching for intersecting sensibilities and connecting artistries in my life and by extension through my work in interiors.
I arrived in Paris in 2019, without knowing French! I had worked as a technology & management consultant for 7 years before coming to Paris. I originally started working in tech in Paris. By being in Paris, I was immersing my daily life in art, architecture, history, and language in a way I hadn’t since I was a child. It truly exposed pieces of my personality and sparked memories from my childhood that I had long forgotten. I quit my job and took a pause for a few months, career-wise.
I decided to reconnect to the things that I loved as a kid again, such as ice skating, drawing, painting, and learning. After a few months, I was comfortable with basic French and connected the dots in my life. I had a clear path to becoming an interior designer. I quickly created a portfolio of artwork and designs I was working on, and Google translated what I wanted to say for an hour entrance interview to LISAA Mode (L'Institut Supérieur des Arts Appliqués, a fashion school in the center of Paris). I got in, and it was the best decision! I have a renewed appreciation for the arts, history, and of course, can speak French now as all of my coursework was in French.
What was it like for you when the pandemic first hit and put Paris into lockdown? How did you not go stir crazy in a 30 square meter apartment?!
As soon as news of the lockdown started, it was admittedly difficult as the majority of my friends and family live in the US. I was experiencing a lockdown that many of those that I know experienced partially or not at all depending on where they lived. The only places open in Paris were grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. In addition, we had restrictions on traveling over 0.5 miles from where we lived and needed signed certificates to leave our homes… not quite the Paris with overflowing cafes & bistros that you might normally imagine!
To keep sane, I took a hard look at our apartment and thought about how we would be using the space and how we could optimize every last inch! I ordered some multi-functional pieces of furniture and started a process of having only things that we absolutely love in our apartment. I can proudly say we use every single item in our place! 30 square meters (about 350 sq ft) seems tiny to Americans, but it’s quite the norm in Parisian apartments for young couples.
I know you started getting into watercolor paints again during the pandemic and painting. Amazing pictures btw! What inspired you to start studio SENSIBILITÉ? What was your initial goal and purpose for the account?
I started studio SENSIBILITÉ because I wanted to create a place where I could post my inspirations, artworks, and interior designs. I was beginning to get a lot of messages on my personal Instagram account whenever I posted my art and designs so I wanted a separate place to house all of these pieces.
How has studio SENSIBILITÉ helped you through the pandemic and through your design course?
In such challenging and unpredictable circumstances this year, I have found my work with studio SENSIBILITÉ to be a grounding source in my life. Without physically seeing my family or many friends, or traveling, or being able to spend as much time outdoors this year, I’ve used the studio as a way to express myself and connect with nature.
What are you proud to have achieved so far with studio SENSIBILITÉ and your design and artwork?
I’m really proud of the fact that I had paying clients within a few weeks of setting up the studio! I have a few clients in the US currently where I am doing interior decoration coaching & consulting, which involves guidance on furniture, color, material, and light selection as well as tips on bringing it all together in your space. I love helping clients translate their ideas into reality.
What are you planning to do next? And after COVID?
I’m planning to continue doing interior decoration coaching & consulting. I love this side of the business that’s starting! My goal for early 2021 is to begin licensing my artwork so that it can be used for products like wallpaper, stationery, and home textiles.
Is there a charity or organization that you want to give a shout out to?
There are two organizations that come to mind – the first is Madame de la Maison, where I am currently interning full-time. Madame de la Maison is a Paris based rental company and online boutique for antique loving entertainers who like to keep things unique, stylish, and sustainable. Madame de la Maison wants to help people gather beautifully and experience joy in their everyday life with tabletop items scoured from the French flea markets. I learned so much and am truly inspired working every day with Ajiri Aki, the founder of Madame de la Maison.
The second organization is Little Africa, a cultural agency that helps individuals, associations, and businesses to connect with the best of African culture in Paris. I’m constantly looking to Little Africa for inspiration and have discovered some of my favorite restaurants, boutiques, and galleries in Paris because of them!
Follow Shana’s design and art @studiosensibilite on Instagram. She also provides interior décor coaching and art commissions.